Carl Edwards, driving the #19 Comcast Business Toyota, dominated the 56th Annual Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway Sunday afternoon. Edwards led 276 of the 500 laps at the short track, with only his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, Matt Kenseth, coming close with 142 laps before tire issues forced the #20 Dollar General Toyota out of the race with 40 laps remaining.
Edwards has 26 career wins in 417 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races, with this being his first victory of the 2016 season, and his fourth victory in 24 races at Bristol. Edwards claimed the pole award Friday followed closely by his JGR teammates taking 4 of the top 5 positions for this afternoon’s race.
“Man, there were so many different things happening out there,” Edwards said. “Different guys were fast at different times.”
During the race Edwards, seen his three JGR teammates suffer several tire issues at the short track in Thunder Valley causing Kenseth and Ky. Busch to withdraw early from the race. But the #19 Toyota undoubtedly was the class of the field after starting from the pole.
“There was some concern,” Edwards admitted in victory lane. “But for some reason with our car we didn’t have any of those issues, really proud of my guys, this team doesn’t quit. This team is Awesome, and Dave (Rogers, crew chief) doesn’t quit, he can almost read my mind during a race. He’d tell me things during the race right when I needed them. So it was just a great day.”
There were a season-high 15 cautions in the race, including two in the final 15 laps, which set up the final restart with five laps remaining Edwards the leader chose the outside row with Kurt Busch in second on the inside, Dale Earnhardt Jr. pushed Edwards from behind in the second row.
With Earnhardt Jr. pushing Edwards was able to pull away from the field on the restart with Ku. Busch and Earnhardt Jr. battling for second. Earnhardt Jr., who suffered problems early in the race when he failed to take off with the rest of the field, rebounded after going nearly three laps down early, Earnhardt Jr. spent the afternoon working his way to the front. At the end Earnhardt Jr. was able to benefit from some of the late cautions that helped him improve his track position in the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet finishing second in the race.
Ku. Busch finished third, Chase Elliott finished in fourth and Trevor Bayne finished fifth. Sixth through tenth are as follows: Matt DiBenedetto, Kevin Harvick, Clint Bowyer, Ryan Newman and Joey Logano.
Along with the JGR drivers suffering on-track tire incidents, other big-name favorites for the race, with issues included Brad Keselowski and Jimmie Johnson who both incurred pit road speeding penalties and Logano’s team for losing control of a tire during a pit stop on lap 108.
“Just awesome. Now we’re in the Chase and we can go have some fun,” said Edwards. “That’s just so cool.”
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series continues on with short track racing at Richmond International Raceway for the Toyota Owners 400, Sunday, April 24 with coverage on Fox beginning at 1 p.m. ET. Qualifying for the race will be Friday, April 22, with coverage on Fox Sports 1 beginning at 4 p.m. ET.